Next year’s plans are still a blur at best. In several ways, I’ve kind of been freaking myself out with what I want to do, where I want to go, or where I even want to live. I still don’t know where I’ll be living in July, which is a little nerve-wracking. I’ve been praying for guidance and for small, maybe even subtle, sign posts along the way, but nothing has really caught my attention just yet. Some ideas pop into my mind and I get temporarily excited about them, but when I think them out in how realistic they are, the excitement fades. Let’s just face it; I’m not going to win this year’s US Open.
On my way home from work tonight I was seriously thinking about what kind of job I’d hope to have. Along the way I just started praying as I drove about how I wish it would be a little more straight-forward. I just didn’t understand why it had to be so difficult to sift through the various things I’d like to do in my life time, pick one, and then go for it. But once I was done venting my frustrations to God (I seriously wonder what that looked like from the other drivers going alongside me), a sudden thought came to mind: What if we’re supposed to sweat this stuff out.
As a kid, whenever I was sick, my grandparents would tell me to wear as many clothes as I could and to put on a couple extra blankets when going to bed. Why? My grandpa told me it was to sweat out the bad stuff. No, merely sweating doesn’t get rid of it all, but it’s the body’s natural way of dispelling the various diseases that infect it. And like the body, I think when it comes to figuring out what we’re meant for on this earth, the soul’s inclination is to sweat out the bad stuff. Our emotions certainly don’t appreciate it, but God knows that it’s what’s best.
And yet I’m not quite settled with the “sweating-out-the-bad-stuff” idea as all there is to it. It just seems to me that there’s something more – something deeper. After thumbing through some Bible notes, I came across Luke 8:22-25:
“One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they ere afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?’”
I’m sure we’ve all heard this passage used in one sermon or another about not worrying, but what stood out to me was Jesus’ question; “Where is your faith?” I used to understand this as meaning, “Where is it? Have you no faith at all?” But I don’t think that’s what Jesus is asking here. It’s not as if the disciples’ faith had gone missing and they needed to find it again; it’s that they already had it and yet misdirected it. Jesus’ question then becomes not “Where is it?” but rather “Where is it placed?”
To borrow from the imagery, when storms rage in your life, what or who do you cling to? What’s your safe-haven? For many in our great nation, it’s some kind of drug. Many others it’s sex. Others gambling – and on and on the list goes. For me, when things start getting a little chaotic and out of control, I’d have to say that my faith is misdirected towards myself. What I mean is, when I’m really tested with various things (jobs, school, friendships, ministry, etc.), I usually give myself a mental pep-talk. I trust in myself and my ability to pull things together if only just to get by. And yet, what I never realize is that I’m just like the disciples; trusting in myself to get through the storm, but no matter how hard I fight with the steering wheel, the storm is just too much.
What hit me tonight was the realization that God wants us, needs us, to go through these storms – these seasons of uncertainty (or as my Episcopalian priest friend Peter calls them, “seasons of discernment”). He wants us to sweat out the things, people, places, etc., where we place our faith. Essentially, if it’s not Him we’re putting our faith into; it’s going to get sweated out.
Doesn’t it seem a little odd, though, that God would intentionally place anxiety-creating events in our lives? Doesn’t that seem the opposite of a “peaceful” God? Here is where a certain Proverb comes in handy: “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts,” (17:3).
God’s refining His image He implanted within us; it just isn’t always going to be comfortable.
Sweat on my brethren… but be sure to take a shower…